Relient K - The Bird and the Bee Sides
Record Label: Gotee Records
Release Date: July 1, 2008
Catchy title and cutesy album art aside, this is easily Relient K's weakest production since their self-titled debut. The double-disc effort, comprised of "The Nashville Tennis EP" and "The Bird & the Bee-Sides," takes the creative reins out of the more-than-capable hands of Matthew Thiessen and shifts some of the lyrical/vocal responsibility to the rest of the band. Bad decision.
The Nashville Tennis EP could easily be an album of its own, but thankfully we were spared having to accept these songs as suitable means of holding ourselves over until the next Relient K album. The Thiessen songs are decent enough, but no one song truly reaches the caliber of songwriting/musical/production quality of "Deathbed" or "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been." The one gem on the disc, "At Least We Made It This Far," is a straightforward pop/alt-country love song that leaves you craving more of the same. Unfortunately, the hungering is left unsatisfied.
As previously mentioned, Thiessen gives up his position as vocalist and lyricist on four of the tracks. Each of the four other band members are given their shot at taking Relient K in their own personal direction, and all four fail to varying degrees. Guitarist Jon Schneck is responsible for "Bee Your Man," a (thankfully) short-lived goofy bluegrass ditty. While "Bee Your Man" is somewhat amusing ("I'd like to conclude with five great things about America..."), it's hardly what I would have chosen to represent my creative leadership. Bassist John Warne takes things back to his Ace Troubleshooter roots with a radio-friendly, but easily-forgettable effort with "The Last, the Lost, the Least." New-to-the-band drummer Ethan Luck throws together a cheap MxPx-throwback with "No Reaction," which is mercifully only a little over a minute long. Matt Hoopes, as the only remaining original member of Relient K (besides Thiessen), stays truest to Relient K form with sugary-sweet, although somewhat bland, lyrics on "You'll Always Be My Best Friend."
The Bird & the Bee-Sides disc is comprised predominantly of pre-released acoustic mixes, demos, and b-sides. The two previously-unreleased songs ("Here I Go" and "The Stenographer") are decent material for an in-between-albums EP, but only remotely comparable to previous Relient K EP's such as The Apathetic EP. "The Stenographer" is more reminiscent of what one has come to expect from Thiessen lyrically with lines like, "I got in a fight with the stenographer / Afterwards she read me like a book." "Here I Go" (a song about finally making something out of your life) is a straightforward tune that doesn't bring anything new to the table subject-matter-wise.
This is truly an EP for real Relient K fans only. If you're not already a fan, this album (hopefully) isn't going to convert you. It'll tide true fans over 'til their next full-length studio album, but most true fans are already going to own most of the songs from previous EP's anyways. It's worth a listen or two, if only out of curiosity for what direction the other band member's songs take.
"this is easily Relient K's weakest production since their self-titled debut."
I think you came in with the wrong expectations. If you compare this to their full-lengths, yes it's weak because it wasn't meant to have the production of a full-length. But if you compare this to the EPs which they've released between each album, this is one of the better ones (if you can compare 26-track "EPs" to 5-track ones). There is a lot of fluff, but there are enough enjoyable tracks here to easily make it worth $10. I like the acoustic/layered pop feel of a lot of the songs as a sort of laidback progression in between their more active full-length material.
Of course, I say that as a Relient K fan, and I agree that this is pretty much just for Relient K fans. But then again, it's only the fans that RK's been making the EPs for all these years anyway.
This is certainly an album that grows on you. I'll admit that songs are either hit or miss, and some tracks are more than a little disappointing. I really fell in love with this song when it became the only CD in my car for a couple of days with long-ish drives. There's a lot of great, driving tracks on here that deliver on pure energy. "Nothing Without You," "I Just Want You to Know," and a lot of the acoustic/demo tracks are well worth the cost of the album.
This really wasn't supposed to be anything official or serious. It definitely isn't a great demonstration of the band's sound at all. But they can do what they want. It was fun and some of it like the acoustic mixes of "Who I am hates who I've been" and "Up and Up" we're really good.